Lizzy Sharer - From Carnegie Mellon to YouTube Star

Oct 24, 2018

Lizzy Sharer

Our interview of Lizzy Sharer for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes.  Liz shares her thoughts on growing a YouTube following. In the nine months since she started her YouTube channel, Liz has attracted 1.5 million subscribers and over 210 million video views. Did I mention that she is really smart? Liz earned a bachelor’s degree in statistics and technical writing from Carnegie Mellon University before she started her YouTube career.

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A transcript of the full interview follows:

Jon: I am joined today by Liz Sharer, welcome to the podcast.

Liz: Hi, thanks for having me.

Jon: You joined YouTube on September 29, 2017. So just a little bit over a year ago.

Liz: Yeah.

Jon: And you already have 1.5 million subscribers.

Liz: Yup.

Jon: And over 210 million views in one year.

Liz: Yup. I actually started my channel in February, that’s when my first video was posted, of 2018.

Jon: Oh so you’re even more of an over-achiever. So nine months.

Liz: Yeah so it hasn’t even been a year.

Jon: Okay so the first question has to be, how did you grow your following that fast?

Liz: We initially started off building Stephen’s channel and through Stephen’s channel we had a lot of character development where Carter is his brother and then I came onhelping out with everything and so I already kind of had a following on his channel and so it was a lot easier to sling shot my channel to—

Jon: You’d already developed your voice.

Liz: Right. Right.

Jon:YouTube sends plaques when you get to certain levels, what plaques, what levels are they at? What plaques have you received?

Liz: There's 100,000 subscribers which I received and then like two weeks later I got the 1 million subscribers.

Jon: That's what I was going to ask. If they crossed in the mail, they still send them.

Liz: Yeah. I wasn't in the system. I didn't have a manager or a YouTube rep or anything for the longest time, so I didn't— the way it works is they email you congratulations, they send you a code and you redeem your plaque. So I redeemed my 100k subscriber and my million play button the same day. So, they basically came—

Jon: Does that ever happen? I mean I've never heard of that happening.

Lizzy Sharer

Liz: Yeah I don't—I think it's more an organization thing than anything but yeah, I guess since I just like grew so quickly, like it kinda like, yeah I don't know. I guess—

Jon: Where, and I’ll tell you this after we're done with the interview why I ask this question, where do you have your plaques?

Liz: We have a wall and we put them all up, so we have one for my dog. My dog has over a hundred—

Jon: I was going to ask you about that too.

Liz: She has one too.

Jon: I'm going to shift gears a second. Where are you from originally?

Liz: I was born and raised in New York.

Jon: And then until recently you were living where?

Liz: So in—

Jon: In general.

Liz: I guess Virginia for the most part of YouTube and then before that—

Jon: But not for long.

Liz: Yeah.

Jon: You’re moving—

Liz: I was in college which was Pittsburgh and I moved out to San Francisco for work and then I moved back to Virginia a year ago.

Jon: And then now you're moving again?

Liz: Yeah.

Jon: To?

Liz: To LA.

Jon: Why LA?

Liz: Just more opportunities in terms of collaborating with people and then the weather is a huge factor because most of our videos are done outside because we do just a lot of fun, outdoor crazy stuff and it's really hard to do that in the winter.

Jon: Are you telling me that the weather in LA is better than it is in Virginia in the summer?

Liz: Yeah, definitely. It's so humid out there.

Jon: You mentioned going to college in Pittsburgh, where did you go?

Liz: I went to Carnegie Mellon and I got a Bachelor of Science in Statistics and Technical Writing.

Jon: And you also swam?

Liz: Yeah, I swam for the first two years of school and then I studied abroad my junior year, so I didn't really swim much. And then senior year I just focused on my grades.

Jon: When did you graduate?

Liz: 2016.

Jon: And when you graduated you said you moved to San Francisco?

Liz: Yeah.

Jon: Who did you work for?

Liz: I worked at LinkedIn as a Technical Writer. That was my first job ever, because I interned there and then—

Jon: So, this is completely off where we’re going but, what tips could you have for your LinkedIn profile?

Liz: Update it. I feel like most people don't, and I think a lot of people go crazy with it and write too many things, but just keep it short.

Jon: What did you do for LinkedIn?

Liz:  I was a technical writer, but I did internal documentation. So, I guess when you think of technical writing, it's like writing manuals and documents and how to guides and stuff. So I basically did that but not for anything that you guys would see. It's more like just for other engineers within the company to see. So yeah, it was

Lizzy Sharer

just a lot of writing.

Jon:And then you became a business manager for two influencers.

Liz: Yeah, I guess it's so different—

Jon: I mean that’s so different, how did that transition come about?

Liz: While I was at LinkedIn, Carter was working in Philly. He was doing research and then Stephen, his brother was doing YouTube and Carter was like, “Oh, this is so cool, we should totally do this,” and so they like kind of dabbled in it and Carter would go on weekends home to like film stuff with his brother, and then started picking up. Early 2017, Carter was joking like, “Liz, if you hit one million subscribers,” or “if we hit one million subscribers, you have to quit your job and join us,” and I was like, “Psh, okay,” you know, “like that's never going to happen or it's going to take a long time,” because one million's a lot of people, you don't think about it or we don't think about it that much anymore because it's just a number but if you try to visualize a million things, it's a lot. And so I was like, “That's never gonna happen.” But I would still help—

Jon: It is ten huge football stadiums.

Liz: Yeah, that's true. That's crazy. I always imagined Carnegie Mellon graduation because it's only like couple thousand and I'm like, “wow, that's nothing.”

Jon: You said you set up your channel in February of 2018.

Liz: Yeah.

Jon: But you have more than one channel.

Liz: Yeah I got super carried away, I started my channel and then I wanted to have a channel that I could game on because I was playing—

Jon: Are you a gamer?

Liz: I would, yeah. I was playing Fortnite, three to four hours every day and I was like, I might as well capitalize on this. So, I started a gaming channel just recently and then I also started—it was supposed to be a makeup channel because I was like, makeup is so cool I've always wanted to get into it, but now it's turning into more of just me, I don't even know how to—

Jon: Is that the Lizzy's Life channel?

Liz: Yeah. It's more just silly things we do throughout the day that I just want to capture for fun and it's different than my main channel because it's kind of targeted towards I think an older demographic.

Jon: Have you always been a gamer?

Liz: No.

Jon: When did you start being a gamer?

Liz: When Fornite came out.

Jon: When did Fornite come out?

Lizzie Sharer

Liz:  I don't even know. Less than a year ago. Maybe a year ago, and it was like super trendy and everybody's posting videos about it and I was like, “I wanna try playing Fornite,” and then I just got sucked in.

Jon: So now the stereotype, and before you take any umbrage to it, my younger son goes to Carnegie Mellon for grad school.

Liz: Oh wow.

Jon:I mean nothing by it, but the stereotype of Carnegie Mellon is it is very scientific, very math based, very gamer-ish, if you will.

Liz: Yeah that’s true.

Jon: What percentage of the women play games?

Liz: I don't know. I think it's probably a lot lower than men of course. But again, at Carnegie Mellon, we didn't really game too much.

Jon: You were busy studying?

Liz: Yeah, basically.

Jon: How did you pick Carnegie Mellon to go back a second.

Liz: It was just the best school I got into. And then swimming was such a huge part of my life that I didn't want to give it up when I went to college. It is also a D3 school so I wasn't fast enough for any other school, basically I wouldn't be able to swim if I went anywhere else.

Jon: Going back to your channels you also have a third channel for your dogs.

Liz: Yeah, I started Otter and Millie's channel because I just thought they were so cute, and I would film them all the time and I was like, okay, these are so cute maybe other people will think they're really cute and so I would edit those videos myself and work after hours to get those videos up, mainly just because I love dogs.

Jon: What kind of dogs are they?

Liz: One's a Yorkie and one is a Havanese-Poodle mix.

Jon: Based on comments, is one more popular than the other?

Liz: I think they're both equally liked.

Jon:So now you know—I just saw one of them where you introduced the dog to cows. You know you’re not going to be able to do that in Los Angeles.

Liz: Well, yeah, I know, but we'll get stuff of her playing in the pool or something.

Jon:The dogs’ most watched video is actually a music video, “Snow Day.” Tell me how you even—because—how long did that take to film?

Liz: It didn't take that long. I had a gimbal with a cinematic camera on it. I think it's a Sony, so it takes slow-mo really well and since it's on a gimbal it looks a lot smoother. So there was one day that we were home and it snowed a lot and so Carter's mom and I went outside and we built an igloo and we just had this huge snow day and it was so cute because Millie’s like running around and she's so little that she's getting stuck in the snow and I was like, I have to film this. So, I filmed it and then I was like, oh, I should just use the Snow Day song that we filmed but do a puppy version. So, it really only took maybe two hours for the whole thing.

Jon: Because it looks like it took a lot longer than that.

Liz: Really?

Jon: It does, it does.

Liz: That's good to know.

Jon:Okay. You have been doing YouTube stuff and you decided to start your own channel. Why the five month—now I didn't realize that five months delay, but why the delay from the time you started it to the time you first posted?

Liz: Just running a single channel, like Stephen’s channel was so much work in terms of, we had so many things going on and it was just Carter, Stephen and I. We

Lizzie Sharer

didn't have anybody else on our team to help us and Stephen and I were still editing, so our day was just so packed with filming, editing, and trying to do brand deals by ourselves. It was just a lot, but as we added more people onto our team, I was running his merch from the ground-up, he started with no merch and I got a fulfillment center, I figured out how—

Jon: How did you go about doing that?

Liz: Honestly, I look back and I'm like, I don't know how I did that because l had no experience at all. But we just worked really hard. We obviously made mistakes but, I know given the scale it really was pretty negligible. And so, yeah it was just, we had so much on our plate so I didn't really—and then we launched Carter's channel I think October of last year so then I was helping with that, so then my channel we kinda didn't really have enough time for it and then we just brought more people on the team, I had more time to do things, and so I finally filmed my videos—

Jon: How many people are on the team?

Liz: Currently we have seven, eight?

Jon: What roles? What general roles?

Liz: We have a full time video editor, and then we have Hunter who's our brand manager and general manager as well, and then we have Ryan who, it's so hard to put people in roles because there's so many things and everybody's wearing so many different hats, but he helps with overall things as well, like he'll help us with uploads and help us manage channels and stuff like that, and then Kelsey who helps us with Instagram and then she helps me film, she helps me just run my day basically, and then we have Zach who is more a creative director type of role and he does a lot of cinematic shots and does really cool photos and stuff like that.

Jon:So now your channel has kind of a mini-series feel to it.

Liz: Yeah.

Jon: I mean there's a constant theme running through a couple of different themes. One is the crush series. How did you come up with the crush series?

Liz: I love chick flicks and I love little cute, romantic moments and stuff like that, and then Carter and I are dating so I was like, “Carter, we should do this crush series. That'd be so cute and all these kids will love it,” because that's the stuff that I lived for growing up. So, I was like kids will be able to relate. Plus, I think a lot of kids are in that awkward stage like, if you like someone, how do you react, so I think a lot of kids kind of look to us for that stuff too and they watch our videos and we kind of put a comedic twist on it to make it light and stuff, but basically I was like, “Carter, we should do a crush series. It’s gonna be so cute.”

Jon: And have you gotten comments and feedback back that people have kind of emulated what you've done?

Liz: I don't think so. I think they really are just like, “Oh my gosh, you guys are so cute,” and then in a way—I guess emulation would be like, “I have a crush on Carter

Lizzie Sharer

too,” that type of stuff.

Jon: You delete that comment right?

(laughter)

Jon: So who is your target audience?

Liz: Our target audience is probably ages four to twelve-ish, it kind of ranges. And you can see that in our different content, I think some videos the tweens will like more and then some videos are more for the younger kids, but, we try to keep it very engaging for anyone to watch, and then obviously being family friendly is also something we tried to do.

Jon: So you go for the G / PG?

Liz: Yeah, exactly.

Jon: Has your focus changed since you first started?

Liz: I think with the chaos of so many different things going on, I do think sometimes it gets a little crazy in terms of our creative content and then also having to adjust with YouTube, but at the end of the day, we always go back to the basics where we want to just create really cool content for kids. I mean even for anyone, just it being cool because if it's cool to us and we have fun doing it, then it shows through our videos.

Jon: You're obviously comfortable in front of a camera. Have you had experience acting or being in front of a camera before this?

Liz: No, never.

Jon: So this is the first time?

Liz: Yeah it's actually so weird to think about that because vlogging has that real feel. I don't think people realize it's still being in front of a camera, so—

Jon: I had a client describe it as the new reality TV.

Liz: It's a good way to describe it.

Jon: It is. It’s real time reality.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah.

Jon: What has been the biggest challenge you faced when creating the content?

Liz: I think the biggest challenge is really working with YouTube—

Jon: In what sense?

Liz: In terms of just everything we do is very strategic. Obviously, there's a creative aspect to it, but there's also huge strategic aspect to it, and Carter is the mastermind behind how to make your videos pop and go viral. YouTube is constantly making changes and they're always tweaking things and that definitely affects our videos’ performance. If my heart's really in the video and I'm like, this video’s so good, I had so much fun filming it, it's going to do so great, and then it doesn't then I'm just like, “aw man.”

Jon:You talked about the strategic aspect. Let's turn to the creative aspects slash strategic. Do you actually whiteboard out what you're going to do?

Liz: No. We do definitely write down all of our ideas. Sometimes before I go to bed I have a bunch of ideas. I'm like, I'm probably not gonna remember these, so I write them down and but we never whiteboard it out or anything. We just go with the flow.

Jon:How far in advance do you plan? I mean, do you have like two or three, ten, one video?

Liz: We go day by day. We filmed a video two days ago that we're posting today. We're probably going to film a video today that we're posting tomorrow. So—

Jon: How often do you post?

Liz: We try to go every other day. Carter posts three to four times a week. So basically daily between both of our channels, and then Millie's channel, she posts twice a week—

(laughter)

Jon: She posts—

Liz: And then I just post on my other channels when I get to it, which could be, I don't know—

Jon: How do you keep, other than frequent posting, which a lot of people is they're on a once a week basis, but how do you keep your followers involved? Do you interact with them on the comments and respond?

Liz: Yeah. We do comments right when we post and make sure we're liking them, reading through them. They give us feedback too, which you don't really think about comments as feedback, but I think it's a great way to understand what they're thinking and what they want from us because sometimes we're so off with some comments, they're like, oh, this isn't what we wanted or something like that, and it's good feedback, but that's kind of how we interact with them. And then Instagram and stuff like that.

Jon: What has surprised you about the process?

Liz: I think Carter.

Jon: Why? What about Carter has surprised you about the process?

Liz: Just how he's so smart and creative and strategic and logical. I'm very emotional, so I'll be like, “Oh my video didn't do well because I wasn't good,” or something like that. And Carter’s like, “Oh no, it's probably this, this and this,” and I'm like, “Okay, that probably makes more sense,” you know. And he keeps me grounded and for someone to do that so consistently, I think it's just really crazy. I don't know because it's so different than my thought process.

Jon: What’s the video that you did and you thought this has got to be a hit, and then it turned out not to perform like you thought it would?

Liz: I feel like there are lot.

Jon: But is there one that you have in mind that when you were done, it's like we nailed this one.

Liz: Well, that one did do well.

Jon: Let me flip it. Is there a video that you thought it might do okay, but it did really well?

Liz: Yeah, I do have one of those.

Jon: Which one was that?

Liz: I did a video called Box Fort Trampoline and we got these foam things. It was so last minute and it was so chaotic, and I didn't have a good thumbnail or any of that and it ended up doing really well.

Jon: When you say really well how many views?

Liz: Over a mil maybe. I think over 3 million. It just kept performing and I was like wow, what is it about this video that's doing so well? Sometimes I can't figure it out. I think it just got looped into a good suggested traffic.

Jon: When you do a video you get most of the traffic, I assume, the first week?

Liz: Yeah.

Jon: Has there been a video that's just had legs on it that people keep going back to it and back to it?

Liz: Yeah, a few. It's weird because I think if somebody else posts a video similar, it just helps out, which is great. Because YouTube does have a pattern of getting you get the most views in the first 48 hours and then that kind of determines how many views you get throughout the whole video’s lifetime, but some videos that don't perform that well in the first 24 to 48 hours—I have some where I'm like, wow, this video keeps performing. Like I did a DIY EDIBLE CANDY PRANKS!! video and it's just always—

Jon: A DIY candy what?

Liz: It’s edible candy pranks, so—

Jon: Oh candy pranks. Okay, okay.

Liz: Yeah, I put salt on gummy worms. I gave them to Carter and he’s like, “Ew this tastes horrible.” That video is a top performer on a 48 hour basis, which is nice to see.

Jon:Yeah. Before we started the interview, you talked about you have done collaborations with other influencers. How often do you do that?

Liz: I think we do them pretty often. I wouldn't say once a month or anything like that, but if we're all getting together, like we all went to CVX Live and we did a bunch of collaborations with Chad and Vy and then Carl and Ginger and Rebecca Zamolo, Ninja Kids TV; there are a lot of creators there so it's easy to collab with them when you're there and that's just a lot of collabs and at one time. But Carter and I go to Carl and Ginger’s a lot to collab with them.

Jon: What percentage of your friends are actually influencers?

Liz: I think now a lot more because it's my life so probably like 80 percent.

Jon: When did that transition? Just since you started on YouTube?

Liz: Yeah, I think the first year of my life I didn't really have a life or the first year of YouTube.

Jon: The first year of your life you were crawling.

Liz: Yeah, I didn’t know what was going on.

Jon:I want to talk about feedbackand comments. So, do you read your comments?

Liz: Yes.

Jon: On a scale of one to ten, ten being they really bother you, one being they don't bother you, where are you on that scale?

Liz: I would say one because most of the comments are pretty nice. We have such great fans who, if they do comment, they say nice things and then if they say mean things, then I also know that it's just a kid so I don't really take it to heart.

Jon:How critical are you, dove tailing on the comments, how critical are you of your own work when you see the video when it's done?

Liz: I think since we have so many “products”, aka videos, we have so many that I don’t know, in the beginning I was like, oh, I look so weird on camera, I shouldn't have said that or should've said it a different way. But I think now since I've been doing it for so long, it's a lot easier to not be critical of myself. I like to try to keep things positive because at the end of the day, this is a crazy job and I'm so grateful for it you know?

Jon:In a typical day, how many hours a day do you spend recording yourself?

Liz: I don't know, maybe two hours. We don't really film every second of every day type of thing. But yeah, probably two, maybe three hours.

Jon:Do you ever feel burnt out on trying to come up with new ideas?

Liz: I feel burnt out but not in the sense of trying to come up with new ideas. It's more just I need a better work-life balance.

Jon: And what is your typical work day?

Liz: We get up and then we meet with the team and then we go film a video or we’re scheduling things or doing emails or, or if we have to post then we upload a video, work on a thumbnail, I get the video up and then do comments—

Jon: How much of the day do you spend consuming content? I'm going to give you an example. One client gets up in the morning, she turns on YouTube on the main screen, it's on all day long.

Liz: Wow. We definitely don't do that. I think I watch some YouTube but not a whole lot. I don't really watch a lot of YouTube myself. I guess it's ironic. But—

Jon: Areyou a Netflix person?

Liz: I really don't watch TV a whole lot in general. Most of the day I'm busy—if I do want to decompress I play Fortnite.

Jon: That’s right, you’re a gamer, that’s right. Okay. I'm going to change gears just a second. Do you consider yourself an influencer?

Liz: Yes.

Jon: When did you first consider yourself an influencer?

Liz: I think when I started my channel because before that it was more just being in the videos but not being the main character.

Jon:What is your definition of an influencer?

Liz: Someone who makes an impact on a large scale because we have millions of people watching.

Jon: Did you ever have that aha, I've kind of made it moment?

Liz: I don't know. It's hard because I think most of the time we're working so hard that we do forget to step back and appreciate and it's so hard because you're your own boss so you don't have time to say, “good job, Liz.” Nobody does that.

Jon: Good job, Liz.

Liz: Thank you.

Jon: You’re welcome.

Liz: I think that's something that we try to do more often where I tell Carter good job because he's the boss and nobody tells him, and then vice versa because we're so busy.

Jon: Have you been in public where people have recognized you?

Liz: Yes.

Jon: When was the first time that happened?

Liz: I don't remember the first time actually, but I think it, it was probably in a grocery store or something, like really random.

Jon: Where were you? I mean in a grocery store but what state?


Liz: In Virginia. It was weird.

Jon: Which is crazy to show the impact.

Liz: Yeah, because when you're behind the screen, you're just looking at numbers you don't actually think about every little kid who's there watching you.

Jon: Have you been to Vidcon?

Liz: Yes we went for the past two years, but this past year was definitely crazier.

Jon: The fan interaction.

Liz: Yeah, there were definitely more fans for sure.

Jon: If you could go back and granted you’ve only been doing this nine months, so it’s not that long, but if you were to go back and start your channel again, would you do anything differently?

Liz: Start it earlier, but no, besides that, probably not.

Jon:What do you see as the trend for your channel in the next year?

Liz: Hopefully I just completely blow up and get to like 10 million subscribers.

Jon: Is that the goal?

Liz: Yeah, soon. It's consistency and it's getting better, improvement and stuff like that. So, it's hard to visualize that.

Jon:Where do you see the space? Just the YouTube space in the next six months, year?

Liz: I think it's definitely an upward trend, it's definitely exploding right now. More people are using YouTube—I feel like in the past it wasn't as big of a platform and it's definitely huge, especially within our demographic and then nowadays every kid wants to be a YouTuber, which is so crazy because when I was growing up it's like I want to be a doctor, I want to be a lawyer, and it's changing to I want to be a YouTuber you know?

Jon: Last question. Where can people find you?

Liz: On YouTube.

Jon: And your--where would they look on YouTube?

Liz: You could just search Lizzy Sharer and I'll have like three channels, four channels.

Jon: And your dogs.

Liz: Yep.

Jon: Thank you very much it was a pleasure.

Liz: Thank you.


The Creative Influencer is a bi-weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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